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Circus arts thrive at new Helsinki centre

By Sara Nyberg, May 2011

Photo: Ilona Jäntti
The Cirko Festival opening features performances by acrobat Ilona Jäntti and other circus artists.

The Cirko Festival, now in its sixth year, gives Helsinki the chance to celebrate the opening of the Cirko Centre for New Circus, built in a former factory building. Join the action in our slideshow below.

Situated in Suvilahti – the same former industrial area that hosts the Flow Festival every August – the Cirko Centre occupies a space once filled with turbines. The surrounding buildings host NGOs, art studios and offices for creative professionals.

The Cirko Centre’s executive director Tomi Purovaara has been working for the Finnish circus scene since the turn of the century, playing a key role in the fast rise of Finnish contemporary circus. “This building forms the national stage for Finnish circus,” he declares with a broad smile a few days before the Cirko Festival takes place (May 4–8, 2011).

Surprising age limits

Photo courtesy of Cirko Festival
Click to enlarge
Kids from Circus Helsinki, an extracurricular academy with almost 600 students, form a human pyramid.

Purovaara hopes to establish contemporary circus as an art form that attracts adult and young adult audiences. To many people’s surprise, performances often have age restrictions. “Contemporary circus seldom presents horror or aims to scare, but the themes and the way they are tackled aim for mature viewers.”

On the other hand, family shows are not forgotten. Mothers’ Day (celebrated on the second Sunday in May in Finland) happens to occur during the Cirko Festival and is dedicated to families, with a hands-on workshop for all ages and spring performances by children’s circus academies. Purovaara aims to educate and raise more aficionados for contemporary circus, which used to be called simply “new circus.” When asked to compare contemporary circus to the traditional huge circus tents, he says: “They are worlds apart.”

The Finnish Circus Information Centre on the Cirko Centre’s top floor opens its doors to students, researchers and the general public in August with a library of books and digitalised photos, posters and clips.

Year of the circus floats and flies

Photo courtesy of Cirko Festival
Click to enlarge
Acrobat Ilona Jäntti’s other job title is aerialist.

Swedish company Cirkus Cirkör opens the Cirko Festival – and the Cirko Centre – with its latest production Wear It Like a Crown. The rest of the programme has a Finnish touch. To name just a few: French-trained Finnish clown Jenni Kallo brings her Kallo Collective (with participants from Finland and New Zealand) to construct a clown Frankenstein in Members of Our Limbs.

Self-taught Finnish juggler Maksim Komaro, whose 15-year-old company Cirko Aereo has worked his way to the top internationally, is an influential figure in contemporary Finnish circus. For the Cirko Festival he choreographs a piece called Motet for London-based troupe Gandini Juggling, whose members come from Spain, Ireland, England and Finland. Together they make objects float, collapse and fly.

To top it all off, 2011 is Nordic Circus Year across Scandinavia, and the Cirko Festival includes a major seminar connected to the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Cirko Festival opens circus renaissance


Note: Click the first photo to begin the slideshow. "Next" and "Previous" buttons appear in the top corners when you roll your mouse over the photos.


Cirko Centre for New Circus
Cirko Festival, Helsinki, May 4–8, 2011

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